If you’re looking to learn piano or want to brush up on your skills, there are plenty of online sites offering high-quality video lessons. But with the seemingly endless sites out there, it can be tough to choose the right one for you. Today, we’ll be taking a look at Playground Sessions vs Piano Marvel, two prominent online piano sites.
Introducing The Courses
Before we get into the features of both Piano Marvel and Playground Sessions in detail, we’ll briefly introduce you to each one:
Piano Marvel is a remarkably thorough online piano resource. It’s unique in that it also has a program for the piano teacher who wants to integrate the site into their curriculum. Piano Marvel also uses the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading (SASR) at all levels, so if you’re looking to learn or improve sight-reading skills, it’s a great option. There are courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players, and the lessons come with several practice modes that make your learning seamless.
Pros & Cons of Piano Marvel
- SASR tests help you learn to sight-read fast
- By using different practice modes, you can get feedback on a piece even as you’re just learning to play it
- The site periodically holds challenges where players can enter a video for a chance to win cash or an iPad
- The site music library has thousands of songs from many different genres
- The song library is primarily focused on classical music, which may not be ideal for all players
- There’s very little focus on proper technique
Playground Sessions is a site with a lot of star power behind it — it was co-developed by famous producer Quincy Jones, and many lessons are taught by Grammy-winning artist Harry Connick Jr. The lessons are a lot like games, and you receive instant feedback on your playing. As you advance, you earn digital badges. Playground Sessions uses popular songs to teach both playing styles and elements of music theory, making it a great option if you prefer pop songs.
Pros & Cons of Playground Sessions
- Songs come with optional backing tracks, which make practicing feel a lot like jamming
- Accuracy scores, badges, and instant feedback help make learning to play feel like a game
- The focus on popular music makes it a good choice for many learners
- Detailed progress visualization dashboard keeps track of your achievements and how long you’ve spent practicing
- The site can’t use a device mic to listen to you play, so you won’t be able to use it with an acoustic piano
- Most lessons aren’t very focused on technique or music theory
Features Face To Face: Playground Sessions Vs Piano Marvel
Now with the overview of both Playground Sessions and Piano Marvel, we’ll focus on each individual feature.
Piano Marvel’s main curriculum is divided into a Method section and a Technique section. Each of these sections is divided into six different levels, and each level has 30 sections with 20 lessons per section. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.
- Level 1 – This level introduces you to the piano (or keyboard). You’ll learn finger numbers and the basics of good technique. You’ll also start to learn the names of notes and the basics of reading music, and you’ll start learning some basic playing rhythms.
- Level 2 – In this section, you’ll start learning to play piano in new time signatures, and you’ll learn concepts like accidentals, and syncopation. You’ll also learn about playing in different hand positions.
- Level 3 – This section will start teaching you how to play scales. You also will learn new chords, discover whole and half steps, and learn about key changes.
- Level 4 – This section moves into more advanced concepts like inversions and triads. You’ll learn about the circle of fifths and transposition, and you’ll also discover some more musical terms. This section also introduces new scales.
- Level 5 – This section takes a deep dive into reading more difficult sheet music. You’ll learn to read two hands on one staff and also discover how to cross hands and do finger substitutions as you play the piano.
- Level 6 – This section gives you an interesting look into Baroque, Classical, and Romantic compositions. If you’re interested in classical music, you’ll probably appreciate this section.
The Technique section is designed to be a reinforcement for the Method section. It includes ear training exercises, which are very useful for any musician. It also includes flashcard exercises. The Technique section has its own video lessons, most of which are designed to give you more practice with the techniques you learn about in the Method section.
Playground Sessions divides its lessons into three levels: the Rookie Tour, the Intermediate Tour, and the Advanced Tour. Here’s what you learn in each:
- Rookie Tour – This 84-lesson course is designed for those who are completely new to the piano. You’ll start by learning a few notes and by playing with one hand. You then will start putting both hands together. You’ll get familiar with some basic rhythms, and you’ll learn how to play simple arrangements of some popular songs.
- Intermediate Tour – This slightly shorter section has 61 lessons. Many of the lessons deal with triads, and they’re taught using popular songs. You also will learn about both major and minor chords and chord inversions, and by the end, you’ll be able to play chords with one hand and a melody with the other. It also will teach youth the useful skill of being able to understand which chords are in a song just by listening.
- Advanced Tour – This shorter section only has 21 lessons, which is to be expected — Playground Sessions is aimed more at beginners than it is at intermediate and advanced players. This course teaches arpeggios and dominant seventh chords, and you’ll also learn about 16th notes and dotted rhythms. Some of the video tutorials in this section also focus on songs, but the arrangements are a little more complex.
The Winner: Since Piano Marvel has a more thorough lesson structure than Playground Sessions, we think it wins this one.
Video Lesson Quality and Practice Features
Piano Marvel offers thorough video lessons. Just about everyone starts with a video tutorial outlining what you’ll be learning. This video Piano Marvel review lets you get a look at the site from a student’s perspective.
We also like that Piano Marvel comes with a printable learning book that contains a thorough explanation of each lesson and has all the sheet music for each one.
Piano Marvel also has several useful practice modes. As you learn to play a piece, you can use “Prepare mode,” which waits for you to play each note before moving on. Once you’re comfortable, you can move on to “Practice Mode,” which breaks up the piece into smaller sections to practice individually.
Piano Marvel also stands out because of its “slicing” tool. As you practice, you can choose one of these options:
- Whole – Practice one hand’s part of the whole piece at a time.
- Chopped – Play shorter sections of the piece with both hands.
- Minced – Play short segments with one hand’s part at a time.
Playground Sessions is a little different from other piano lessons you see online. Because there’s so much interactive feedback, many lessons don’t involve a piano teacher showing you how to play a piece.
This sample video of one of the Playground Sessions piano lessons shows you what to expect — there’s a sheet music scroll where the notes light up green when played correctly and red when played incorrectly.
And true to the gamified learning concept that Playground Sessions uses, you get points and rewards when you play songs well. (Points can be redeemed for free song tutorials from the music library.) When you’re learning a new piece, Playground Sessions also gives you the option to slow down the tempo.
The Winner: Since Piano Marvel offers many practice modes that will help you as you learn to play the piano, we think it wins this one.
Keyboard and Device Compatibility
To get the most out of Piano Marvel, it’s best to use a keyboard or digital piano. Even though the site says it can be used with an acoustic piano, users with an acoustic piano learn in “book mode,” where you don’t have access to any assessment features like the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading.
Piano Marvel is a little limited in terms of what devices you can use it with. You can access Piano Marvel video tutorials on Windows or Mac computers and on iPad, but you can’t use it on Chromebooks or non-Apple tablets.
Playground Sessions works with just about any USB or MIDI keyboard or electric piano. You could technically use it with an acoustic piano, but just like with Piano Marvel, doing so wouldn’t allow you to get any of the feedback.
When it comes to devices, Playground Sessions is similar to Piano Marvel –it can be used on an iPad, a PC, or a Mac.
The Winner: Since both Playground Sessions and Piano Marvel have almost the same device compatibility, we think this one is a tie.
Piano Marvel offers piano lessons at a reasonable price. The monthly rate is $15.99, and the annual subscription is $110.99. If you want to try it out before committing, a free account lets you access all songs and lessons from the level one course.
Playground Sessions offers a monthly, annual, or lifetime plan. The monthly rate is $17.99, the annual is $119.88, and the lifetime plan is $289.99. Playground Sessions regularly runs promotions offering discounted memberships, but there’s no option for a free trial.
The Winner: Since Piano Marvel is less expensive and does let you try parts of the site for free, we think it wins this one.
When looking at Playground Sessions and Piano Marvel, we noted that there are some features unique to one site. Here are the standouts we found:
- Free song library — Piano Marvel’s song library lets you practice all songs for free. On Playground Sessions, the monthly and annual memberships let you access five free song tutorials per month, and any extra songs are $1.99 each. The annual membership lets you access 40 free songs.
- Backing tracks — Playground Sessions includes backing tracks to go with the songs you play, so you can get the feel of practicing with a whole band.
- Practice modes — Piano Marvel lets you practice in “Prepare” or “Wait for me” mode, where the site waits for you to play a note before moving on to the next. “Practice mode” breaks up a piece as you learn how to play it, making it easier to practice individual sections.
- Supplemental courses — Playground Sessions will let you unlock extra courses as you move through the app. This is a great incentive to keep practicing, and it helps expand your learning, too.
- Sight Reading Assessments — If you’re looking for a way to learn to sight-read on your own, Piano Marvel is a great choice thanks to its built-in SASR assessments.
- Contests and Challenges — If you like the spirit of community and want to practice performing without having to leave home, you’ll probably like Piano Marvel’s YouTube competitions. To enter, you just need to upload a video of yourself playing.
If you’re still not sure about Playground Sessions vs Piano Marvel, we don’t think you can go wrong with either one. Both Playground Sessions and Piano Marvel have well-thought-out curriculums, and we think you’ll have fun learning piano regardless of which you choose. Here’s our recommendation for which site to choose:
Use Piano Marvel if:
- You’re committed to playing the piano and want to learn using a course that’s as thorough as possible
- You want to make use of ample assessments and practice modes
- You’re more interested in classical piano than you are in popular music
- You’re interested in learning to sight-read
If you’re ready to start your journey toward becoming a pianist, click here to check out Piano Marvel!
Use Playground Sessions if:
- You do well with gamified learning and want to have fun as you learn to play the piano
- You prefer a program that’s very focused on learning songs
- You want the benefit of being able to play songs with backing tracks
- You’re more interested in popular songs than you are in classical piano
If you’re ready to have a great time learning to play the piano, click here to check out Playground Sessions!